On the verge of releasing two live albums gave us an excuse to revisit the extensive back catalogue of Sir Jack White.
With a career spanning up to 20 years, the musical virtuoso has six albums with The White Stripes, two with The Raconteurs, three with The Dead Weather, and two solo releases.
Here they are in order of amazingness…
13. Icky Thump, The White Stripes, 2007
It’s a shame The White Stripes went out on this record. It seems the experimental levels were turned up a notch, but rather than bringing us something exciting, tracks like ‘St. Andrew (This Battle Is In The Air)’ and ‘Conquest’ were off the mark.
Whether it was a shift in the musical approach, or trying something new vocal wise, the obscure tracks you find on Icky Thump aren’t the best in a long list of ambiguous fillers White often uses to theme an album.
We’re given early Stripes vibes from tracks like ‘Little Cream Soda’ and the signature back and forth banter is on point in ‘Rag And Bone’, but I guess the best defence for the last place slot – not many of these tracks get much stage time during a White live show.
Single: ‘Icky Thump’
Underrated Gem: ‘I’m Slowly Turning Into You’
12. Consolers of the Lonely, The Raconteurs, 2008
Now I’mma finish this list, but let me just say, ‘Carolina Drama’ is one of the greatest tracks of all time, of all time! I doubt anyone can dispute that, but the 12 place slot for Consolers of the Lonely – let me explain.
Released just a week after announcing it existed, this Raconteur album occasionally finds itself awkwardly sitting in between soft and loud. Where this can sometimes work, track ‘Consoler of the Lonely’ leaves you wanting more, while softer song ‘You Don’t Understand Me’ isn’t as memorable as other piano driven White tracks.
The horn rich single ‘Many of Shades Black’ was an innovative approach for White yet that’s about as refreshing as the record gets.
Lead Single: ‘Salute Your Solution’
Underrated Gem: ‘Carolina Drama’
11. Horehound, The Dead Weather, 2009
Lead Single: ‘Hang You From The Heavens’
Underrated Gem: ‘New Pony’
10. Dodge and Burn, The Dead Weather, 2015
Lead Single: ‘Open Up, That’s Enough’
Underrated Gem: ‘Mile Markers’
9. Get Behind Me Satan, The White Stripes, 2005
Out of the 13 albums on the list, this is the least guitar focused of the bunch. Is that a bad thing? Definitely not.
We’re given piano driven ballads such as ‘Forever For Her (Is Over For Me), ‘White Moon’ and spine-tingling suggestive track ‘I’m Lonely (But I Ain’t That Lonely Yet)’. Upbeat boppers ‘The Denial Twist’ and ‘My Doorbell’ give the release contrast, while ‘Blue Orchid’ and ‘Red Rain’ give six-string-addicts their hit of Jack White shredding.
All in all, Get Behind Me Satan was a welcomed and well timed transition for White, but if you were to make a ‘best of’ album tomorrow, not many, if any, would make the cut.
Lead Single: ‘Blue Orchid’
Underrated Gem: ‘Little Ghost’
8. Lazaretto, Jack White, 2014
Lead Single: ‘High Ball Stepper’
Underrated Gem: ‘Three Women’
7. The White Stripes, The White Stripes, 1999
Often the forgotten about release by the duo, but god knows why.
From opening track ‘Jimmy The Exploder’, White puts on a clinic in rock fundamentals – rhythmic guitar for verses and fast-paced power chords for choruses. If your ears haven’t latched on by the end of that, the intro to second track, ‘Stop Breaking Down’ demands your attention. Yet it isn’t all swashbuckling riffs, the Dylan cover ‘One More Cup of Coffee’ is more haunting than the original, while ‘I Fought Piranhas’ shows musical maturity beyond Whites years (he was 23 at the time of its release).
Gut-wrenching lyrics, “there was no one with me, I was all alone” yelled out in painful desperation makes for an emotional live performance.
Our pick for the most underrated album of the bunch.
Lead Single: ‘The Big Three Killed My Baby’
Underrated Gem: ‘Wasting My Time’
6. Broken Boy Soldiers, The Raconteurs, 2006
Lead Single: ‘Steady, As She Goes’
Underrated Gem: ‘Together’
5. Sea of Cowards, The Dead Weather, 2010
Lead Single: ‘Die By The Drop’
Underrated Gem: ‘I Can’t Hear You’
4. De Stijl, The White Stripes, 2000
Bar opening track ‘You’re Pretty Good Looking For a Girl’ there’s no real in between for De Stijl. You’re either hit with a wailing, distorted track where White’s guitar goes bonkers, or a smooth ballad that’s best appreciated when perceived as a poem with a backing track.
Representing the guitar driven corner are fan favourites ‘Hello Operator’ and ‘Death Letter’ which include two scintillating solos that are up there with White’s best, and that’s a very competitive catalogue. Slower song ‘Truth Doesn’t Make a Noise’ is a haunting sonnet to say the least, while the relaxed country vibes in ‘Your Southern Can Is Mine’ is about as hick as White’s ever been. With this being said, it’s hard to categorise this album into a more lyric or guitar driven release, but that’s the beauty of it. White’s just gone and combined the two rather than put his energy in one and see the other trail.
A real coming of age release for White.
Lead Single: ‘Hello Operator’
Underrated Gem: ‘Why Can’t You Be Nicer To Me’
3. Blunderbuss, Jack White, 2012
In 2012 White set sail on what a lot of people would argue was an overdue solo voyage. Nevertheless, he delivered in spades with a very personal release.
Often questioning a lost love or defending his own actions, the cruisy musical vibes are juxtaposed with some intimate tales – evident in single ‘Love Interruption’ and ‘Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy’. Rarely hitting 11 in terms of volume is a bit of a surprise on first listen, but on reflection it’s what you could expect from a 2012 Jack White. He’s back to his bluesy, tap along roots, which is understandable if you consider he was leaving the head-bangers for his Dead Weather sessions.
Unlike other releases, the album grows on you over time, rather than getting you instantly hooked with stand up intros or hooky solos. All in all, a mature, well timed release for White.
Lead Single: ‘Love Interruption’
Underrated Gem: ‘Missing Pieces’
2. Elephant, The White Stripes, 2003
With ‘Seven Nation Army’ featuring on Elephant, it’s fair to say the 13 other songs missed out on some earned commercial credit, so let us indulge in the neglected.
‘Ball and Biscuit’ is arguably Whites most impressive guitar work to date, while on the other end of the spectrum ‘The Hardest Button to Button’ is one of his simplest composed tracks ever, but as catchy as hell. The intro to ‘Little Acorns’ makes it one of the most memorable Stripes hits whilst the signature call and response in ‘It’s True That We Love One Another’ is a fine fitting closing track.
As the man often does, contrast is evident with thrashers ‘Black Math’ and ‘Hypnotise’ and gut wrenches ‘I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself’ and ‘I Want To Be The Boy’.
It’s a relentless listen – never lapsing in energy nor lacking in feeling, yet it just misses out on the top spot…
Lead Single: ‘Seven Nation Army’
Underrated Gem: ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’
1. White Blood Cells, The White Stripes, 2001
Easily the most complete record of the bunch, and arguably the one with the most emotion behind it.
Themes of paranoia and hopelessness resonate through the lyrics in ‘I’m Finding It Harder To Be A Gentlemen’ and ‘Dead Leaves In The Dirty Ground’, while musically White channels his frustration through his guitar in ‘Now Mary’ and ‘I Can’t Wait’. Listening from start to finish is like condensing a lengthy relationship down into 40:25 minutes and assessing how each party was feeling throughout. From that, you can stick a big ‘concept album’ sticker on it, which gives ambiguous tracks ‘Little Room’ and ‘Aluminium’ meaning.
For such an amazing guitarist, it’s puzzling to consider that the release is void of a solo, but that just proves how White is far from a one trick pony.
Lead Single: ‘Hotel Yorba’
Underrated Gem: ‘I Can’t Wait’